BOGOTA: Five Colombian soldiers were killed and 10 others injured in an apparent roadside bomb attack by presumed ELN rebels near the border with Venezuela, the head of the army said on Tuesday.
Army General Ricardo Gomez, who gave the toll, told W Radio station that the soldiers were on highway security duty in the department of Norte de Santander, when a blast hit the first vehicle of their group.
Gomez blamed National Liberation Army guerrillas, who are active in the region, for the attack. Peace talks between the government and the ELN have been suspended since January, although on Monday the rebels announced a temporary March 9-13 ceasefire during the upcoming legislative elections.
The ELN urged the government of President Juan Manuel Santos to return to negotiations, which he suspended after attacks blamed on the guerillas left eight police dead and dozens wounded.
The ELN began peace talks with the Colombian government a year ago in the Ecuadoran capital Quito. Santos, who will leave office in August, is hoping to reach a peace deal with the ELN similar to that agreed with much larger FARC rebels, a group that has since disarmed and transformed into a political party. That peace deal ended the five decades-long conflict, and guaranteed 10 seats for the FARC in Colombia’s congress.